California Water Priorities Ballot Measure Review Completed

Legislative Analyst Completes Review of California Water Priorities Ballot Measure

California Water Alliance (CalWA) executive director Aubrey Bettencourt announced TODAY that California Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor and Director of Finance Michael Cohen reported their findings to Attorney General Kamala Harris regarding CalWA’s proposed constitutional and statutory amendment for November’s General Election ballot.

In its report to Attorney General Harris, the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) found that the water priorities ballot measure “would not significantly increase or decrease the state’s anticipated debt payments.”

“We are pleased that the LAO agrees that our measure performs as we intended and has no undesirable fiscal effects,” said Bettencourt. “From the outset, we wrote it to avoid any new taxes, new debt, new user fees, or other costs to the state’s taxpayers.”

The measure would redirect up to $10.7 billion in previously-authorized High-Speed Rail Project and 2014 Water Bond general obligation bond authority to fund construction of specific water-storage related projects throughout the state and amend the state’s constitution to prioritize uses of water, putting people’s needs first.

By helping to solve California’s water storage infrastructure needs, the initiative would remove unspent bond funds from the High-Speed Rail Project approved by voters in 2008, now listed as the least important infrastructure priority according to the recent Stanford Golden State Poll. Dealing with the state’s water problems is the majority of voters’ top priority, according to the same poll.

CalWA sponsored the measure with State Senator Bob Huff and Board of Equalization Vice-Chair George Runner, its proponents.

The LAO also found the net effect of the measure on federal funds and its impact on state and local governments were unknown. The LAO also reported the measure could cause unknowable changes in other state capital projects.

 Bettencourt said that Attorney General Harris is expected to finish her review within a week and release an official title and summary for the measure, the first step in circulating petitions to qualify the measure for placement on November’s ballot.

“The people of California will be given the ability to reprioritize the state’s direction for the needs of today—from a high speed train to water storage,”  Bettencourt said. “They will soon be able to sign the measure’s petition and help us in our efforts to qualify this important initiative measure for a vote of the people,” she concluded.

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About the California Water Alliance

The California Water Alliance is a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the nature of water and promoting long-term, sustainable solutions that meet the health and security needs of families, cities, businesses, farmers and the environment. To learn more, visit www.CaliforniaWaterAlliance.org.

About the California Water Alliance Initiative Fund Committee

The California Water Alliance Initiative Fund Committee (FPPC ID#1381113), sponsored by the California Water Alliance, a non-profit IRC §501(c)(4) organization, is a state primarily formed ballot measure recipient committee organized to qualify two or more state ballot measures for the November 2016 ballot. It is permitted to accept unlimited, non-tax-deductible donations from individuals, corporations, partnerships, nonprofit organizations, and any other lawfully permissible sources. For more information and restrictions, please visit http://cawater4all.com/

Paid for by the California Water Alliance Initiative Fund |  455 Capitol Mall Suite 600, Sacramento, CA 95814

Governor Brown, legislative leaders announce $1 billion emergency drought package

Mobilizing state resources to face another year of extreme dry conditions, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. joined Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, and Republican Leaders Senator Bob Huff and Assemblymember Kristin Olsen to announce legislation to help local communities cope with the ongoing, devastating drought. The $1 billion package will expedite bond funding to make the state more resilient to the disastrous effects of climate change and help ensure that all Californians have access to local water supplies.

“This unprecedented drought continues with no signs yet of letting up,” said Governor Brown. “The programs funded by the actions announced today will provide direct relief to workers and communities most impacted by these historic dry conditions.”

The legislation includes more than $1 billion for local drought relief and infrastructure projects to make the state’s water infrastructure more resilient to extreme weather events.  The package accelerates $128 million in expenditures from the Governor’s budget to provide direct assistance to workers and communities impacted by drought and to implement the Water Action Plan. It also includes $272 million in Proposition 1 Water Bond funding for safe drinking water and water recycling and accelerates $660 million from the Proposition 1e for flood protection in urban and rural areas.

“Taken together, this package provides a major boost to our state’s efforts to manage the drought and strengthen our infrastructure,” said pro Tempore De León. “I want to thank the Governor and the Speaker for working together to respond to this crisis. It shows how we—as leaders–can get things done when we all work together in common purpose.”

“The drought isn’t letting up, so we can’t let up either,” said Speaker Atkins. “This legislation will deliver relief to Californians harmed by the drought and help us manage the significant problems the drought continues to cause. Since our skies are still clear—our job is too. And making sure we meet emergency needs, prepare for short term problems, and advance longer-term projects are an important part of that effort.”

“I want to thank the Governor, the pro Tem and the Speaker for inviting us today. We were briefed on this proposal just this morning, and so far it sounds like a good approach.  We need to review the legislation in detail but it seems like a reasonable start,” said Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff. “Republicans have consistently said that storage is essential for providing a reliable water source to all of California for future generations. The Prop 1 water bond that was passed last year is a critical step forward in meeting the needs for California’s future. There’s no question California’s drought crisis has worsened, as once again we’ve experienced a dry winter.  With the hot summer months approaching, it’s incumbent on all Californians to be responsible with how they use water. It’s critical that we act now.”

“This emergency drought relief is an important band aid,” said Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen. “We must move beyond temporary fixes. Projects to increase water supply have been hung up in government red tape for decades. I’m glad today we are making decisions that help people and look to us all to take real actions on long-term projects so emergency actions are no longer needed.”

The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which Californians rely on heavily during the dry summer months for their water needs, is at a near record low. The March snowpack measurement came in at 0.9 inches of water content in the snow, just 5 percent of the March 3rd historical average for the measurement site. The overall water content for the Northern Sierra snowpack came in at 4.4 inches, just 16 percent of average for the date. Central and southern Sierra readings were 5.5 inches (20 percent of average) and 5 inches (22 percent) respectively. Only in 1991 has the water content of the snow been lower.

Taking action to further strengthen water conservation in the state, the State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday voted to expand and extend an emergency regulation to prohibit certain water use, such as washing down sidewalks, and create a minimum standard for outdoor irrigation restrictions by urban water suppliers.

Since last February, the state has pledged over $870 million to support drought relief, including money for food to workers directly impacted by the drought, funding to secure emergency drinking water supplies for drought impacted communities and bond funds for projects that will help local communities save water and make their water systems more resilient to drought. Last month, Governor Brown met with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell in Sacramento to announce nearly $20 million in federal drought relief for California’s Central Valley Project.

In December 2013, the Governor formed a Drought Task Force to closely manage precious water supplies, to expand water conservation wherever possible and to quickly respond to emerging drought impacts throughout the state. The following month, the administration finalized a comprehensive Water Action Plan that charts the course for California to become more resilient in the face of droughts and floods and the Governor declared a drought state of emergency. In April 2014, the Governor called on the state to redouble their efforts at combating drought.

Last fall, the Governor signed legislation requiring local, sustainable groundwater management as well as legislation to put a water bond before voters, which won bipartisan approval in the Legislature and was approved overwhelmingly at the polls. He also issued an Executive Order streamlining efforts to provide water to families in dire need as the extreme drought continues to grip the state by making funding available through the California Disaster Assistance Act to provide water for drinking and sanitation to households currently without running water.

Governor Brown has called on all Californians to reduce their water use by 20 percent and prevent water waste. Visit SaveOurWater.com to find out how everyone can do their part and Drought.CA.Gov to learn more about how California is dealing with the effects of the drought.

STATEMENT FROM CALIFORNIANS FOR WATER SECURITY

Californians for Water Security issued the following statement in response to the drought relief package announced today by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, and Republican Leaders Senator Bob Huff and Assembly member Kristin Olsen.

The following quote can be attributed to Robbie Hunter, President, State Building & Construction Trades Council of California:

“Today’s announcement shows the serious problems California faces in the midst of this historic and unrelenting drought. While the steps presented today would deal with the immediate drought, we also need to create long-term solutions to the systemic problems stemming from the state’s aging and sorely inadequate water distribution infrastructure. Our current system cannot accommodate the state’s current population, let alone expected increased demands of the future.

“That’s why we must move forward with implementing the plan to update and modernize California’s water distribution system through the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). There’s no time to waste. This plan will help us prepare for future droughts by using the water we have more efficiently and building a modern water distribution system that allows us to better move and capture water in rainy years. It will also address the severe vulnerabilities inherent in our state’s outdated water infrastructure, including the threat of earthquakes and floods.”

The plan was drafted after nearly a decade of extensive expert review, planning and scientific and environmental analysis by the state’s leading water experts, engineers and conservationists. It is the only viable plan supported by leading scientists, water agencies, engineers and other experts.

The BDCP plan will:
– Improve the safety of our water system by fixing aging infrastructure using the most innovative technologies and engineering practices.
– Protect water supplies by delivering them through a modern water pipeline rather than relying solely on today’s deteriorating levee system.
– Build a water delivery system that is able to protect our water supplies from earthquakes, floods and natural disasters.
– Improve the ability to move water in wet years to water storage facilities throughout the state so we can capture it for use in dry years.
– Restoring habitat and more natural water flows above ground in rivers and streams in order to reduce impacts on endangered fish and other wildlife.
– Build a water system that can reliably deliver water to people and businesses, while also protecting water supplies for the environment, fish and wildlife.

About Californians for Water Security:
CWS is a new and growing coalition of residents, business leaders, labor, family farmers, local governments, water experts, environmentalists and others who support the plan to fix California’s broken water distribution system through the implementation of the BDCP, which was drafted after nearly a decade of scientific review and analysis by leading water experts and conservationists and has received input from leading scientists and engineers. The coalition is waging an active advertising, grassroots lobbying, social media and public advocacy campaign to support this important project to fix our aging water distribution infrastructure and improve water reliability and security throughout the state.

For information on Californians for Water Security, visit: www.watersecurityca.com

Opponents ask Governor to Veto Groundwater bills

Source: Dave Kranz; Ag Alert

Farmers, ranchers, other water users and nearly three-dozen members of the state Legislature have urged Gov. Brown to veto a package of groundwater-regulation bills that reached his desk in the waning hours of the legislative session.

The bills-Assembly Bill 1739 by Assembly member Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, and Senate Bills 1168 and 1319, both by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills-would establish a broad, new regulatory framework for managing groundwater.

Gov. Brown has until Sept. 30 to sign or veto the legislation.

Opponents, including the California Farm Bureau Federation, say the bills go well beyond addressing issues of basins in overdraft, casting a cloud on water rights and establishing requirements that will lead to confusion and litigation.

CFBF President Paul Wenger said Farm Bureau has always encouraged the proper management of groundwater, but that doing the job efficiently and effectively should have been the priority.

“Instead,” Wenger said, “the Legislature took the ‘ready, fire, aim’ approach, rushing these bills through and creating a massive new regulatory program in the final days of the legislative session.”

Farmers, ranchers and other California landowners will be left to pick up the pieces, he said, dealing with the consequences of the legislation for years to come.

Under the bills, basins in critical overdraft would be required to develop groundwater-management plans within five years. Other basins would have seven years, but low- and very low-priority basins would not be mandated to develop plans.

A bipartisan group of 35 Assembly members and senators urged Gov. Brown to veto the legislation and to call a special session of the Legislature in December to reconsider groundwater management.

“Like you, we are concerned about the increasing conditions of overdraft in many groundwater basins,” the legislators wrote to the governor. “However, the legislation before you punishes groundwater users in basins that have little or no overdraft or already have effective management efforts in place. It will also infringe upon the right to groundwater, at a time when available water supplies are getting tighter.”

The legislators warned that the authorities granted in the groundwater legislation “will radically alter the landscape of groundwater law” in coming years and will have “a destabilizing impact on those who depend on groundwater supplies.”

In their letter, the legislators said they are willing to help the Brown administration craft a “narrower, more effective measure focused on basins where real problems exist, encouraging them to implement management measures modeled by other regions, and providing new state authority to intervene where local management fails.”

The letter was signed by Assembly members Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo; Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach; Frank Bigelow, R-O’Neals; Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside; Connie Conway, R-Tulare; Brian Dahle, R-Bieber; Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks; Steve Fox, D-Palmdale; Beth Gaines, R-Roseville; Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo; Adam Gray, D-Merced; Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield; Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills; Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point; Brian Jones, R-Santee; Eric Linder, R-Corona; Dan Logue, R-Marysville; Allan Mansoor, R-Costa Mesa; Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore; Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto; Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield; Donald Wagner, R-Irvine; Marie Waldron, R-Escondido; Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita; and Sens. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte; Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres; Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield; Ted Gaines, R-Roseville; Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton; Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar; Steve Knight, R-Antelope Valley; Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga; Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber; Andy Vidak, R-Hanford; and Mimi Walters, R-Irvine.

Other legislative opponents of the groundwater bills from Central California included Assembly members Luis Alejo, D-Salinas; Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova; Susan Eggman, D-Stockton; and Henry Perea, D-Fresno. Perea noted that the bills would have a disproportionate impact on the Central Valley, and said the costs of implementing the legislation would be “enormous.”

CFBF President Wenger said Farm Bureau and other opponents had been able to “take some of the edge off” the bills during negotiations that preceded the final votes on the legislation.

“It now includes protections for water rights and other provisions that could lessen its detrimental impact,” Wenger said. “For that, we must thank those in the Capitol who helped rein in some of the proposals’ worst overreaches and the legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, who voted against the bills.”

Even so, he said, Farm Bureau considers the legislation to be fatally flawed and has urged the governor to veto all three bills.

“True resolution to California groundwater problems will come through measures that this legislation does not address, such as a streamlined adjudication process and the recognition of groundwater recharge as a beneficial use of water,” Wenger said.

Most importantly, he said, California must improve its surface water supplies.

“All the fees and fines in the world won’t heal our aquifers unless California builds additional storage and improves management of surface water in order to reduce demand on groundwater,” Wenger said.